By C. K. Williams 1936–2015
Kids once carried tin soldiers in their pockets as charms   
against being afraid, but how trust soldiers these days   
not to load up, aim, blast the pants off your legs?

I have a key-chain zebra I bought at the Thanksgiving fair.
How do I know she won't kick, or bite at my crotch?
Because she's been murdered, machine-gunned: she's dead.

Also, she's a she: even so crudely carved, you can tell   
by the sway of her belly a foal's inside her.
Even murdered mothers don't hurt people, do they?   

And how know she's murdered? Isn't everything murdered?
Some dictator's thugs, some rebels, some poachers;
some drought, world-drought, world-rot, pollution, extinction.

Everything's murdered, but still, not good, a dead thing   
in with your ID and change. I fling her away, but the death   
of her clings, the death of her death, her murder, her slaughter.

The best part of Thanksgiving Day, though—the parade!
Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Kermit the Frog, enormous as clouds!
And the marching bands, majorettes, anthems and drums!

When the great bass stomped its galloping boom out
to the crowd, my heart swelled with valor and pride.
I remembered when we saluted, when we took off our hat.

Source: Poetry (January 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2009
 C. K. Williams


Hailed by poet Paul Muldoon in the Times Literary Supplement as “one of the most distinguished poets of his generation,” C.K. Williams created a highly respected body of work, including several collections of original poems, volumes of translations and criticism, and a memoir. Williams was especially known as an original stylist; his characteristic line is extraordinarily long, almost prose-like, and emphasizes characterization . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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